Monday, September 2, 2013

Myths and Heroes: Kusseth Continued and Serethnem

So one thing I forgot to do with Kusseth last Friday was talk about their folklore regarding the underground. Most mythology and folklore, in my limited and uneducated experience, stem from fears. The ground beneath Kusseth, while rich in ores, is basically swiss cheese studded with chunks of fallen Kaleshmar. It's full of tunnels and crystalline chunks of destroyed cities. It's mostly settled and not really prone to cave ins anymore, so earthquakes and sinkholes aren't like a perpetual worry or anything. But think about it. The first people of Kusseth were enslaved "criminals" that were shoved underground to mine for The New Empire. These places were dark and dirty and messy and those that died did so very messily and usually with great pain.

When first discovered, the karthak was a terrifying creature to the penal colonies of not yet Kusseth. The karthak is a canine about the size of a big dog, maybe like a Saint Bernard. It's a nocturnal and subterranean canine with shovel like claws and semi-corrosive saliva. Basically, it digs and shit. It's a pest in modern Kusseth, and usually is nothing more than a pain in the ass for waste management workers that have to go and clear a pack out of the sewers. But back in the day, imagine it. It cave in hits, killing and wounding dozens of workers. They sit in the dark for a few days because no one cares, they get weak and sick. Then a few karthak smell dead bodies and come investigating. They start chewing on the dead and maybe those that are still technically alive, then they dig their way back out and go do karthak things. When eventually a cave in is uncovered, penal miners find their fellow prisoners dead and chewed up with no sign of any way in or out of the cave. They came up with stories of cannibal prisoners that had been lost in cave ins years ago. A prominent one was Blind Mike and his crew of pale and sickly miners. Men who'd lived in the depths so long their eyes were milky white and their skin would scorch in daylight. Broken once men that burrowed through earth and rock like worms with fingers and nails as tough as an iron pickaxe. They imagined these creepy fucks lying in wait for days, chipping away at stone to prepare an area for a cave in so they could feed on injured and dying penal miners. The noise of earth and stone settling at was said to be Blind Mike and his kin tapping away at the earth below, just waiting for the miners to strike the right spot. The guards of the twelve original prison camps, only made it worse and egged on the fears and tales of Blind Mike and similar legends.

In later years, the folk tales became about cave wights that got a taste for the blood of non-Glenwighta, and lurking Dwenoren saboteurs. Now, onto Serethnem.

Before the disappearance of the Briar King, Serethnem was pretty much indistinguishable from Vyanthnem. Aside from being dark and gloomy and cold and full of a stormy sky. What I mean by the same is not the environment, but the nature of the civilization. They had cities and castles and mines and streets and schools and so on and so forth. When the Briar King left, all the earth and rock he'd used his Gifts to create from sand began returning to sand. Buildings started shifting, roads began breaking up, and eventually whole cities began sinking. I said in the previous post that there are digger types that try and study the ruins of the Builders, but there are Sereth cities buried in the sands as well. The Sereth are a pragmatic and resilient people, they care very little for the ruins of their civilization. When they find them, they strip them of useful resources and continue on their way. Part of this "Fuck the past!" mentality is that 4510 years of nomadic lifestyle is a hard tradition to break, another part of it is that the desert is simply too tough to survive if you're digging around in the sand clinging to the past or trying to drag it into relevance instead of raping it of resources, and a third part is that on some level, the Sereth don't want to be reminded their lives used to be more than endless walks over pale sand beneath a scalding sun.

One of the most prominent legends of the Sereth concerns the nyeklaeon. The nyeklaeon are huge wolf-like creatures found in the deserts (think dire hyena). These beasts are descended from the hunting hounds of the Briar King. The tales say that though the Briar King was a kind ruler, he was obsessively vengeful and wrathful when wronged or betrayed. Supposedly, the first of his hounds were Sereth that betrayed the Briar King or worked worked to depose him or weaken his power, he responded by using his powers to force them into the form of a nyeklaeon. Over the decades, these beasts lost none of the intelligence they'd had as Sereth, but supposedly some found a way to regain the use of certain magics they'd had as Sereth. 

The Sereth have always been mistrusting and reticent in regards to strangers, and this tale ties into that. These nyeklaeon would supposedly find lone Sereth in the forests and slay them. Once dead, the nyeklaeon would devour their insides, bones and all, and sort of climb into the carcass (as much as a massive hyena-like creature could), and use their magic to take the form of the now dead Sereth. The Sereth are a stoic people, not prone to showing emotion or fits of giggling laughter. This is because nyeklaeon have a habit of lurking in the night and erupting into fits of barking laughter when a pack of them brings down prey and these shapeshifted nyeklaeon are supposedly prone to fits of laughter. Though nyeklaeon are rarer in modern times, the tales of laughing strangers that come in the night to kill Sereth caravans still persists. 

Who are the heroes of the Sereth? The most prominent heroes and historical figures are the founders of the sixteen clans. In the past, there were sixteen major cities in Serethnem, each ruled by a lord of the Sereth appointed by the Briar King. When the sixteen lords met and determined that the absence of the Briar King was unmaking their forests, they were the ones that decided to adapt and turn to a nomadic lifestyle instead of hunkering down in their cities. These Sereth were tough individuals, and came to prominence through valor and skill. Most were sorcerers of at least middling skill and power. There were three things the Briar King respected, intellect, ability to hunt, and sorcerous skill, and the men he put in charge of his kingdom were paragons of those virtues. 

These sixteen clan leaders were Alaren, Cordic, Errelm, Gidlen, Granuele,  Heren, Kenlan, Murkenel, Noryn, Oren, Sutlel, Thuryn, Valen, Voryenel, Wathiel, and Zosaryn. These sixteen Sereth were the leaders of their people, and in their honor, the sixteen clans took their name. Each was a mighty warrior and hunter, with a mind as sharp as a blade, and as I said, each was at least a passable sorcerer. When the sixteen clan leaders eventually died, their bodies were entombed in a Builder pyramid. A tradition of the Sereth when they stumble on ruins of ancient Serethnem is to loot an object of art or value and when their path comes near this particular pyramid in their travels, leave such objects in the pyramid as a sort of offering to the ancient clan leaders. 

Now, this doesn't mean there are only sixteen clans wandering through the desert. Two are extinct, the Sutlel and Oren. The Sutlel were lost in battle against The New Empire and The Plains of Dust. The Oren were lost when they attempted to track down the Briar King. As time passed and Sereth numbers grew, clans grew to be too large to sustain themselves and small groups split off to form new clans, usually with some variation on the original clan name. Regardless of current clan affiliation, every Sereth born in the desert knows the history of their clan and which of the sixteen major ones they originated from. 

So there's just a little bit about the Sereth. 

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